I've been thinking a lot over the past week or two about the Wilderlands of High Fantasy boxed set. A wide range of really cool people over at TheRPGsite recommend this setting. I've given the free preview a close look as well. If you don't know, the Wilderlands setting was originally released by Judges Guild back in the day. It came out years before Greyhawk or any other big D&D setting. The new boxed set (Well, it was published in '05. That's still 'new' by my standards.) is a d20 update of all the old material, greatly expanded with lots of stuff.
Long story short, the Wilderlands boxed set is a hugeass map (eighteen 17" x 22" sections) covered with hexes. And a whole metric assload of those hexes are given short entries outlining their contents. It's the ultimate sandbox setting, as described by Melan. You could literally start a campaign by dropping the PCs into any hex on the map and they'd almost certainly be within a day or two of an adventure of some sort. We're talking *years* worth of "wander the map, get into trouble" style adventures. And the statblocks are as light as humanly possible for a d20-based product. You could run Wilderlands under a different system and not be wasting that much of your purchase. I look at the Wilderlands free preview and see a product that could be run with any version of D&D, or C&C, or Iron Heroes, or MERP, or RoleMaster, or even Encounter friggin' Critical. I am totally not joking about that last one. Hell, you could use Rifts and maybe make it work. The setting has the solid foundation needed to run it straight vanilla with the Rules Cyclopedia or MERP and the elasticity to go totally gonzo.
On one hand, a prefab world full of a million awesome mini-adventures is exactly the sort of product that I need. Setting books that read like encyclopedias appeal to me less and less these days. According to reports, Wilderlands excises that stuff from the boxed set and puts all that in the Player's Guide hardbound. Instead you get a whole world laid out like the outdoor adventure map in the Keep on the Borderlands. That's what I want. A sandbox all about the adventure, not a setting that exists as a thing unto itself.
On the other hand, part of me shies away from getting the Wilderlands boxed set. And it's not just my inner cheapskate at work here, unable to part with 45 bucks for a stupid game. Rather part of me sees the elegant structure of the Wilderlands and sees that I could do that myself. I could get a big ol' numbered hexmap, sketch out some terrain, and stock a bunch of hexes. Would I get that same level of do-it-yourselfer buzz by adding stuff to the Wilderlands? I dunno.
Another issue is the inherent tension between a big expansive wilderness and a big expansive dungeon. I like campaigns that focus on a big, nonsensical dungeon. But a party out exploring the wilderness isn't plumbing the depth of the dungeon and vice versa. Won't either one or the other get ignored a big chunck of the time? Another advantage of the do it yourself approach is that I could start with a mostly blank wilderness map and let the players fill it in as they explore out from their starting locale. That would be cool.
Maybe it all comes down to which I have more of, money to blow on stupid game crap or time to devote to a homebrew setting. Some days it feels like I've got neither.
Just a quick update - Hello Dear Readers! I don’t have much for you today other than to do some quick “pimping of my stuff.” Apparently, according to some of my players, I don’t...
You could literally start a campaign by dropping the PCs into any hex on the map...ReplyDelete
That sounds like an excellent way to start a campaign.
"We're inserting your team via HALO drop using a orichalcum-stealthed gold dragon carrying out a high-speed overflight. Once on the ground, you are to bury your feather fall jewels and make your way to the objective..."
If you get bored while deciding, the new Uresia PDF (Spider Meat) doesn't cost a dime ;)ReplyDelete
- S. John the Amazing Plugboy
Well, you're lucky with the timing of your quandry then. Go to GenCon next week, walk up to the Sword and Sorcery kiosk and ask them why you should spend the money on it, and if you could have a look at the contents.ReplyDelete
Once you hold the map in your hands you will know whether it is the magical ticket to another world you've heard so much about, or whether its just a piece of 3rd party publisher junk (*cough* Like most S&S stuff. *cough*)
Now that you've told me about it I'll definately give the box a shake at the 'Con.
On the other hand, part of me shies away from getting the Wilderlands boxed set. ... Rather part of me sees the elegant structure of the Wilderlands and sees that I could do that myself.
This is true, and I am doing something similar myself. It is fun, even more your own creation than customising the original product. However, be cautioned that it is hard to fill even one Wilderland-sized campaign map, let alone more. It's a big time and creativity investment.
Another issue is the inherent tension between a big expansive wilderness and a big expansive dungeon. ... Won't either one or the other get ignored a big chunck of the time?
It probably will; with all the wilderness play, the really big dungeons get a bit sidelined. IMC, it is usually wilderness and city with smaller, lair type dungeons which fill one or two sessions worth of play.
I play Adventure Paths.ReplyDelete
I DM old-school adventures.
I DM the Wilderlands.
To grow as a D&D DM.
To be able to make my own stuff, I need to know what came before.
The high road is doing it all yourself, but first I need to travel the low road
I think you've already boiled down the question to its essential components - Is it worth my money to save on the time I would otherwise spend stocking a ginormous map? Or would it be better to just do the danged thing myself, catering to my tastes and saving the cash for something else?ReplyDelete
I'm a huge cheapskate, so I always come back to the advice that Brian Gleichman gave on RPGnet many moons ago: look at the product you're salivating over, list the things you think are cool about it or imagine it contains, and then make your own version based on your perceptions of the product. Sure, you may miss out on some surprises, but you also don't get disappointed, and you save cash.
Like I said, huge cheapskate. It doesn't help the RPG industry, but I'll worry about that again once I'm no longer living solely on my wife's income.
As for planning wilderness encounters, I once read some good advice from Doug Anderson (aka dougmander), author of the Northern Crown setting from Atlas Games, back when he had all of his setting stuff free on his website. I'll try and summarize it here, since I don't think it's online anymore, and I can't seem to find my printout of the article at the moment:
Break up the wilderness area into regions. Treat each region of the wilderness as you would a room in a dungeon: give it an overall description that sets the mood, make note of the specific details the PCs may search for or be confronted with, and stock it with one or more major monsters that inhabit the area and may have control over it.
He gave similar advice for creating cities, in which you follow the same procedure, but instead of "monsters," you'd have the hierarchy of power - who's top dog, who serves them, etc., usually about three people total - and as "treasure" you'd have important information or locations that are useful for the PCs to uncover in order to deal with the city's power structure.
Having said all of that, I can't argue with Settembrini's point - it's always good to see how the pioneers did it, both to learn from their mistakes and to emulate and build upon their successes...
The "drop into any hex" was a long-held dream when I was actively DMing, waaaay back in the day. Gygax laid out rules for doing this in a number of places; the one that is most potentially useful suggested taking one of the Greyhawk "campaign hexes" and overlaying it on a one-mile-scale hex sheet (so the "megahex" would be thirty one-mile hexes across, etc.). You then just drew whatever features and subfeatures you wanted, at an intimate scale. It was incredible. Even deep desert has hundreds of terrain features (indicated now on your map), and so overland journeys became incredibly realistic, especially when you threw in some weather details and the like. The problem was that this was when maps were done with colored pencils. What's needed is a way to draw all this stuff quickly via computer, with quickly-generated random encounters on the side to be dropped in as necessary.ReplyDelete